A trusted aide to Louisiana Sen. David Vitter resigned Wednesday morning after ABC News reported that he had been arrested for attacking his ex-girlfriend with a knife, and had an open warrant for his arrest in Baton Rouge on a drunk driving charge.
The aide, Brent Furer, worked on the Republican senator's last campaign, and has spent the last five years posted in his Washington office to handle, among other things, women's issues.
An ABC News investigation out this morning revealed that Furer had repeated brushes with the law dating back to the 1990s. Those who have had encounters with Furer told ABC News that his presence on Vitter's payroll raised serious questions about the senator's judgment. Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said it concerns her that the senator has talked so forcefully as an advocate for women and an opponent of drunk driving, and yet kept someone with Furer's background on his staff.
"It says something terrible about Senator Vitter's judgment that this is the kind of guy he wants to keep in his office," said Sloan, who first alerted ABC News to the assault case. She said Furer's resignation was "an obvioius attempt by the senator to save himself with women voters as heads into his reelection campaign this fall."
"Senator Vitter knowingly kept this dangerous person on his staff through his drunk driving arrest in 2003 and his chilling domestic violence assault conviction in 2008," said Sloan. "Why have him resign only now?"
Furer's resignation was reported at 10:30 Wednesday morning by the Associated Press. Vitter spokesman Joel DiGrado told AP that Vitter's office was aware of Furer's arrest for attacking his ex-girlfriend two years ago, but said Vitter was unaware of any other legal issues until the ABC News report. "Senator Vitter accepted the employee's resignation today after learning of the other incidents," spokesman Joel DiGrado said.
Yet in 2003, after Furer pleaded guilty to driving drunk, a pastor who was Vitter's regional director in Louisiana oversaw Furer's court-ordered community service, and did so while Furer continued to work as a key paid staffer on Vitter's first senate campaign.
Reached at Vitter's senate office last week, Furer declined to comment, saying he was "too swamped" with the office's response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. He did not respond to questions emailed by ABC News. Vitter, a 49-year-old first-term Republican who is up for reelection in November, also declined to comment when approached in front of his senate office building Tuesday.
Vitter spokesman DiGrado acknowledged the senator had concerns about the 2008 arrest, in which Furer was accused of holding his ex-girlfriend against her will for 90 minutes, threatening to kill her, placing his hand over her mouth, and cutting her in the hand and neck.
"After the January 2008 incident, he was told to leave the office pending the court's determination of what happened," DiGrado said in an emailed response to questions from ABC News.
DiGrado said that after Furer was sentenced, Vitter imposed "further significant disciplinary action" in consultation with the congressional employment legal office, though he would not elaborate on what that entailed. He said the senator hired Furer because of the aide's military service during the first Gulf War.